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Interim Hawaii Procedure for Determinations of Wetland Minimal Effect MW




Under the new FSA manual (Aug 96), the State Conservationist, in consultation with the State Tech Committee, will:

(1) develop local procedures for wetlands functional assessments;

(2) identify preemptive/cautionary conditions that would automatically disqualify the project from a minimal effects exemption,

(3) identify categorical minimal effects activities (to be submitted to the regions and later issued in the Federal Register), and

(4) establish public relation strategies.

Discussion: Part 516 of the National Food Security Act (FSA) Manual, 3rd Edition provides for the granting of exemptions for activities that may have minimal effects (MW) on wetlands. The following interim procedure was developed for use in making minimal effects determinations in Hawaii. This document was reviewed by the State Technical Committee and discussed in the February 18, 1997 State Technical Committee meeting. Comments from the committee members have been included.

By implementing this procedure, we will be able to determine (1) if the proposed project can be granted a minimal effects determination, or (2) if it is a project that has pre-emptive conditions, or “red flags” that would preclude it from having minimal effects. This procedure also lists the practices and activities that are categorically exempt. This exemption procedure can only be utilized one time per Farm Services Agency-designated tract, and applies only to preconversion, not after-the-fact conversions. See the FSA manual, Part 516.22 for post-conversion MW procedures.

This procedure will remain in effect until a wetlands functional assessment procedure based on Hydrogeomorphic (HGM) principles is developed. Although HGM models are not specifically used, functional assessment concepts are incorporated into this procedure.

Use: NRCS wetland delineators will be specifically trained in the use of this procedure. They will be responsible for gathering information as indicated in the steps below and will provide the results of the procedure and agreement to the producer and landowner.

Procedure: Follow the steps below to determine if a planned alteration to a wetland will result in minimal effect exemption (MW) to wetlands functions and values. If you are uncertain about what conclusions should be drawn from the worksheets, contact the NRCS State Office (State Biologist).


This procedure is in a slightly different format than what was called for in the December 11, 1996 memo to State Conservationists. We thought that instead of a long (and perhaps confusing) listing of yellow and red flags, categorical exemptions, and functional assessment guidelines, that we would instead have one simple flow chart that includes all of the concepts, with worksheets that will aid the field staff in making determinations about impacts to particular wetland functions. This interim procedure addresses the specific prerequisites listed in the December 11 memo as follows:

(1) (a) The preemptive “red flags” are noted on the flow chart as Step C, “Are there any deed or other restrictions related to wetlands or wildlife”; Step D, “Does the project involve wetland fill of more than 1/3 acre”; and part of Step E, “Are there any rare communities that the project would affect”.

(b) Wetland types that have been determined that through mitigation will not achieve equivalent replacement of functions and values within a reasonable time frame are: rare communities, specified as anchialine pools and montane bogs in Hawaii.

(2) Cautionary yellow flags include impacts to wetlands that either cause impacts to or contain the items noted on the flow chart in Setp E, Step F., Step G, and Step H. These are: Threatened and Endangered Species or Habitat, Cultural Resources, Water Quality, or Flooding.

(3) Categorical Minimal Effects activities are listed in Step B. These are: Hand-clearing of non-woody vegetation, Fencing (no fill), and Maintenance (after doing a scope and effect).

(4) The process is outlined in the flow chart and defined in the accompaning forms and worksheets. The wetland activity and description form includes, as an interim measure, a determination of wetland class or subclass, using a hydrogeomorphic classification key (Attachment A). Each worksheet contains questions relative to the “cautionary yellow flags”. Some of the worksheets included detailed questions characteristic of Hawaii’s wetlands. For instance, the vegetation and wildlife worksheet specifically poses questions about Hawaii’s endangered waterbirds, native habitats, etc.

5. The wetland functions and values are identified within the worksheets.

6. We have included a brief information/education/marketing strategy, developed by our Public Affairs Specialist.

7. This interim procedure, after it is reviewed by the Regional Office, will be implemented immediately. We plan to begin training field staff on use of the procedure, and will be assisting them in the field when specific wetland projects arise. The USFWS has concurred with the procedure, and will continue to be invited to the field when minimal effects determinations are requested. We will be working on a detailed mitigation procedure in the near future. We have also initiated an interagency effort to review and regionalize HGM models to better fit Hawaii’s wetlands.


for Minimal Effects Determinations

(Corresponds with Step A on the Flow Chart)

Date __________________ Form completed by_____________________________

Name of Minimal Effects Applicant _______________________________________


Tax Map Key# ________________________FSA Tract #________________________

Wetland Determination (attach Form CPA 026, field data forms and maps).

a. Hydrogeomorphic (HGM) Class________________________________________

HGM Subclass (if known)______________________________________________

To determine HGM Class and/or subclass, please follow the key in Attachment A . Make a wetland sketch, and if known, indicate (with arrows) the direction of surface or groundwater flow in the wetland. If it is a mosaic (more than one class), sketch the key hydrology and/or geomorphic characteristics.

b. Wetland Description (from offsite tools listed in the Wetland Mapping Conventions, as well as results of onsite wetland delineation, such as field data forms and descriptions.) Note soil, dominant vegetation, National Wetlands Inventory Classification, wildlife presence, adjacent man-made features, and any other descriptive conditions. Attach scale drawing on copy of aerial photo or USGS base map. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

c. Type and size of wetland manipulation (sq. ft in proposed MW area); quantities of fill or discharge, quantities of excavated materials (cu yds). Attach proposed plan.



d. Is the proposed affected area a portion of a larger wetland (irrespective of tract or ownership boundaries)?_______If yes, size of entire wetland area___________

Date_______________________ Applicant_________________________ Location_______________

Form completed by_____________________________


(corresponds with Step E. on Flow Chart)


(Y) (N) Does the project site have known ecological features or communities considered by federal or state agencies to be unusual or rare in the region (e.g. anchailine pools, montane bogs, etc)? Check DOH Water Quality Maps, USGS Quads. If unsure, make onsite determination to confirm site has such features or communities. Invite USFWS and/or DLNR representative to site visit. If (Y), MW cannot be granted.

(Y) (N) Does the site support, or is part of an area/habitat known to be used by state or federally listed threatened, endangered, proposed, or candidate species? To determine, complete the following onsite questions:


Is it migratory or nesting season? (Y) (N) Circle species if in season.

Season Time

(Migratory) bird season Nov-Apr.

(Coot) peak nesting season Mar-Sept

(Koloa) peak nesting season Jan-May

Season Time

(Stilt) peak nesting season Mar-Aug

(Moorhen) peak nesting season Mar-Aug

Time of Day:______________ (Birds are more likely to be seen during early morning or late afternoon.)

Endangered Fauna Observed On Site:

___ # of Koloa Duck (Anas wyvilliana).

___# of Hawaiian Coot (ale keo keo), (Fulica alai).

___# of Hawaiian Moorhen (alae ula) (Gallinula chloropus sandvicensis).

___# of Hawaiian Stilt (aeo) (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni).

___# of migratory birds (see list). Species name (s):_________________________________________________________

___# of damselflies. (see ref book) Species name(s):_________________________________________________________

___# of aquatic vertebrates. Species name(s)_______________________________________________________________

___# of aquatic invertebrates. Species name(s)_____________________________________________________________

___# of native freshwater gobies. Species name(s)__________________________________________________________

___# of native, rare, threatened or endangered plants. Species name(s)__________________________________________

If there are threatened, or endangered plants at the site, call the State Biologist and the USFWS. If the dominant vegetation is native, also call the State Biologist to determine if there are conditions that must be added.

Even if any of the above species are observed, continue with Habitat analysis.


Have you seen the site in the dry and wet seasons? (Y) (N)

Is there (flowing) or (standing) water at or adjacent to the site or is there likely water during the rainy season (Y) (N)?

Is it (permanent) or (seasonal)? Explain seasonal variation, if any.


If the anwer is (N), no open water is found and not likely at or near the site (even temporarily), the project will not likely have any adverse effect on rare, threatened or endangered animal or bird species. Circle (N) on Step #E and continue to Step #F. If the answer is (Y), please continue through the list of habitat questions.





Endan. damselflies

Rare goby

Newcomb’s snail

In the shaded box is the Master List of the endangered, threatened, or otherwise protected wildlife species found in wetlands and streams.

As you work through the following habitat questions, cross out the species that would likely not be at the project site.

By the end, you will have identified if the site is potential critical habitat and if the area may be good nesting habitat

Is there or could there be flowing water or permanent pools at the site? (Y) (N). If (N), cross Lentipes off of the Master List.

Are there small ponds within the wetland or riffle/pool complexes within a stream on site with introduced fish (Y) (N)? If (Y), cross off Megalagrion.

What island is the site on? Cross off species on the Master list not found on island



Big Island

Maui, Molokai, Lanai

All of the main islands

All of the main islands except Lanai

Moorhen, Koloa, Coot, Stilt and Newcomb’s snail may be there

Moorhen, Koloa, Coot, and Stilt may be there

Koloa, Coot and Stilt may be there

Coot and Stilt may be there

Candidate damselflies, Megalagrion sp. may be there

Species of Concern, Lentipes concolor (o’opu alamo’o) may be there

If you are on Kauai’s North Shore, are there springs, seeps, or vertical waterfalls adjacent to perennial streams on site, which could be habitat for Newcomb’s snail (Erinna newcombi) (Y) (N)?

What is the elevation of the site? __________On Master List, cross off species if above elevation.

Species Elevation

(Koloa) sea level to 9,900 feet.

(Coots) sea level to 5,000 feet.

(Stilts) sea level to 660 feet.

(Moorhen) at low elevations.

Species Elevation

(Lentipes) sea level to 4000 ft.

(Megalagrion) sea level to 7000 ft.

(Newcomb’s snail) sea level to 4000 ft.

Is the water (fresh) (brackish) or (saline)? Circle one. Note species on Master List.

Found in Fresh only

Newcomb’s snail

Found in Fresh and Brackish

Koloa, Moorhen, Coots,Megalagrion

Found in Fresh, Brackish& Saline

Lentipes, Stilt

SECTION III. NESTING HABITAT Start with species remaining from Section II. This section will better indicate if there will likely be additional conditions to the MW, or if there may be adverse effects that cannot be minimized or mitigated, thus a MW or MIW cannot be granted.

What is the ratio of open water___ to vegetation___? Circle species if optimum ratio is found.

Ratio for optimum nesting habitat for (Coots) is 50:50 to 75:25.

Ratio for optimum nesting habitat for (Moorhen) is typically at least 50:50.

Are there newly exposed mudflats on site? (Y) (N) Nesting habitat for (Stilt) is typically newly exposed mudflats.

What is the water depth? _____inches. Circle species if optimum depth is found

Optimum depths for nesting are: 1-5 inches deep for (Koloa)

less than 3.3 feet for (Moorhen)

less than 6 inches for (Stilt)

Now answer question #E, and mark your answer on the flow chart. If you are uncertain how to answer questions in Step E, contact the NRCS State Biologist and/or USFWS.

Date_______________________ Applicant_________________________ Location_______________

Form completed by_____________________________


(corresponds with Step F. on Flow Chart)


(Y) (N) Is the area on state or federal lists as a historical or archeological site, or is it potentially eligible for the Federal or State Register of Historic Places?

Contact the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD), which keeps the statewide inventory of historic properties. The SHPD will ask questions about the project site, so prior to calling them, answer the following:

1. The Tax Map Key (TMK):________________________

2. Specific location of field(s), if smaller than the TMK._____________ Have available your maps prepared in Step A, Wetland and Activity Description Form.

3. Has the project area’s land surface been extensively altered by human disturbance (such as sugar cane) by chain dragging, bulldozing, filling, or by some other activity?

(Y) (N). If (Y), what activity(ies)?___________________________________________

4. What is the current land use? (e.g. cultivation, pasture, etc)_____________________________________________________________________

5. In the field, are walls or canals visible? Or are stone platforms or terraces visable? If (Y), describe them:____________________________________________________________________

Now ask the State Historic Preservation Officer the following questions:

1. Has there been an acceptable archaeological survey of the project area? (Y) (N)

- If (Y), were there any sites eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places? (Y) (N). If (N) to this, the rest of this worksheet need not be filled out.

- If (Y), are sites apparently still present? (Y)(N). If (N), the rest of this worksheet need not be filled out. If (Y), list them (attach list if many sites)


2. If the project area has not undergone an acceptable archaeological survey, the SHPD will need to determine if significant sites are likely to be present. Document conversation with the SHPD.

3. Indicate the name of the State Historic Preservation Division Archaeologist with whom you spoke:

Kauai and Niihau: Nancy McMahon. Phone 742-7033

Oahu: Elaine Jourdane. Phone 587-0014

Molokai, Lanai, and Kaho’olawe: Sara Collins. Phone 587-0013

Maui: Temporarily handled by Sara Collins.

Hawai’i: Pat McCoy. Phone: 587-0006 or Marc Smith. Phone 933-4346

4. Fax a copy of this worksheet to the NRCS Cultural Resources Specialist for follow-up, if necessary.

Date_______________________ Applicant_________________________ Location_______________Form completed by_____________________________

WORKSHEET #3, WATER QUALITY (Sediment/Nutrients/Pollutants)

(corresponds with Step G. on Flow Chart)


(Y) (N) Is the area in immediate proximity of existing or proposed public water supply intake or public water supply wells? If (Y), contact Water Quality Specialist to determine if special conditions must be developed or if a MW cannot be granted.

Sediment Load

Velocity of water moving through the wetland will (increase) (decrease) (stay the same) after the project?

The volume of water moving through the wetland will (increase) (decrease) (stay the same) after the project?

The capacity of the on-site vegetation to retain sediment will (increase) (decrease) (stay the same) after the project? List vegetation before and after project. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What is the erosion hazard of the surrounding area (i.e. in the watershed)? What would be the erosion hazard after the project?

How likely are soils to become suspended? ______________(shake small sample in jar 1/2 filled with water. Let stand 2 minutes. If cloudy but light passes through, answer “not likely”. Otherwise, answer “likely”.)

How large is the watershed?_____acres. Where is the wetland relative to the watershed?_____

What are current onsite and surrounding slopes?___________ What are the slopes after the project? ________________

Calculate Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) for the site. A = RKLSCP. _____________

Calculate anticipated USLE for the site after the project. A = RKLSCP. _____________

Other Water Quality Questions

Are there any known or suspected pollutants currently entering or coming from the project site? (Y)(N) Will the project site affect the amounts of those pollutants entering or leaving the site? (Y)(N) How?__________________________________________________________________

How much organic material is in the upper part of the soils on site?__________________ Soils with high organic matter better sequester nutrients, contaminants, and other elements.

From your answers to the above questions, decide the following:

(Y) (N) Will sediment load be increased by the proposed project?

(Y) (N) Will the proposed project otherwise adversely affect water quality?

Date_______________________ Applicant_________________________ Location_______________Form completed by_____________________________


(corresponds with Step H. on Flow Chart)


The best time of year to fill out this worksheet is during the rainy season. If it is not, try to document what you believe would be occuring during the rainy season.

Current Condition On Site

What is the flood hazard at the site? (estimate “x” in “y” years)_____________________

What is the wetland’s main sources of water? [Precipitation] [Flooding] [Ponding] [Tidal][Groundwater] (circle answer)

Do any man-made structures currently affect the flow of water? (Y)(N) If (Y), explain_____________________________________________________________________________________

How does the vegetation on site affect the flow or infiltration rates?


Does the slope affect hydrology? If (Y), how? _____________________________________________________

Is the soil named in the mapping unit, or is the soil an inclusion in the mapping unit?

What are the permeability class of the mapped soil? __________________________________________________

How deep is the water table?_____________Hydric soil indicators of saturation depth__________

What is the current slope of the area?______________________________________________________________

Anticipated Conditions after Project

What will the flood hazard be at the site post-project? ________________________________________________

Will the main sources of water to the wetland change? (Y)(N) If (Y), how?________________________________________________________________________________________

Does the project include structures that affect the flow of water? (Y)(N) If (Y), how?________________________________________________________________________________________

How will the vegetation after the project affect the flow? ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Will the expected or designed slope of the area affect hydrology? (Y)(N) If (Y), how? ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Will permeability or infiltration rates be (increased) or (decreased)? How?______________________________

Will water table depths be (increased) or (decreased)? How?_________________________________________

From your answers to the above questions, decide the following:

Step H. (Y) (N) Will project increase the potential for flooding? If (Y), (upstream) (downstream) or (both)?.



#1. WETLAND IS UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF TIDES...............................Go to #2

#1. WETLAND IS NOT UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF TIDES....................... Go to #4

#2. WATER IS SALINE OR BRACKISH (MORE THAN 30 ppt).................Tidal Fringe

#2. WATER IS FRESH (SALINITY IS LESS THAN 30ppt)....................Riverine (Tidal)

#3. WETLAND IS TOPOGRAPHICALLY FLAT AND HAS PRECIPITATION AS A DOMINANT SOURCE OF WATER.............................................................................................. Go to #4


#4. WETLAND HAS A MINERAL SOIL............................................Mineral Soil Flats

#4. WETLAND HAS AN ORGANIC SOIL..............................Organic Soil Flats

#5. WETLAND IS ASSOCIATED WITH A STREAM CHANNEL, FLOODPLAIN, OR TERRACE............................................................................................Go to #6

#5. WETLAND IS ASSOCIATED WITH A TOPOGRAPHIC DEPRESSION OR ON A TOPOGRAPHIC SLOPE OR FLAT............................................................ Go to #7

#6. STREAM IS INTERMITTENT OR EPHEMERAL.........Riverine (nonperennial)

#6. STREAM IS PERENNIAL............................................Riverine (perennial)

#7. WETLAND IS LOCATED IN A NATURAL OR ARTIFICIAL (DAMMED) TOPOGRAPHIC DEPRESSION...................................................................................... Go to #8

#7. WETLAND IS LOCATED ON A TOPOGRAPHIC SLOPE........................ Go to #9


#8. TOPOGRAPHIC DEPRESSION DOES NOT CONTAIN PERMANENT WATER >2 METERS DEEP............................................................................Depresssion

#9. PRIMARY SOURCE OF WATER IS GROUND WATER...............................Slope

#9. PRIMARY SOURCE OF WATER IS PRECIPITATION...................Organic Soil Flats